Labour must not try to board a sinking ship

by Robert Williams

Promising to commit national economic suicide and break up the country more compassionately and efficiently is not really a vote winner.

Nevertheless, that is what Keir Starmer’s New! Improved! Shallow Cabinet is determined to do.

Despite splits over whether to back a Brexit deal, with some shadow ministers threatening to resign and backbench Labour MPs warning that up to 60 could rebel if Keir Starmer insists they back the government’s truly awful thin gruel deal, the party seems determined to lay claim to be the second worst opposition ever.

Labour’s dilemma is a continuation of its uncertain and internally divided position on Brexit and has been a sore point long before Keir Starmer became leader. The harsh justice is that. Labour has been consistently awful, short-termist, dishonest and cowardly for the last four years, and deserves severe criticism.

If Starmer carries through his intention to whip Labour MPs to vote for this deal, they will be neither honourable, honest or credible. You cannot be if you accept a tissue of lies, know very well that they are profoundly damaging, and do not dare oppose them because you might offend those who believed the lies.

Since he became Labour leader, Keir Starmer has, rightly, focused on competence, or rather the complete lack of it in the Johnson government. But he has deliberately ignored Brexit and the consequences of our exit from the EU, ostensibly to avoid falling into the “trap” of appearing to be pro EU. And yet there is no policy more incompetent and based on ideological lunacy than Brexit.

Quite why pointing out the damage any Brexit will cause (and is already causing) is bizarre. It becomes clearer with every passing day.

Ah, but Labour wants to show it has “moved on” from Brexit to it’s former “Red Wall” seats in the North, say some shadow ministers. Shadow Business minister Lucy Powell suggested on HuffPost UK’s Commons People podcast that refusing to vote for a deal would amount to “putting two fingers up” to ex-Labour voters who back Brexit. The shadow business minister said it was “better to be strong” and take a position.

That would be correct only if you want to adopt a position that makes you the co-author of a right-wing ideological act of lunatic self-harm.

And it’s not even true.

Former Labour MP and minister Joyce Quinn has written  “The biggest myth about the Red Wall is that it was all about Brexit and that the Red Wall seats, which had voted Leave in the 2016 Referendum, fell to the Conservatives because of Boris Johnson’s repeated mantra that he would “get Brexit done”. She continues, “Generally speaking most Labour candidates in the election calculated that the Corbyn factor outweighed Brexit as the main issue on the doorstep in the ratio of 5 to 1”.

It wasn’t Brexit wot lost the election. It was Jeremy Corbyn.

Still, we are where we are. And, like the old saying, “I wouldn’t start from here” goes, we have to deal with the situation as we find it, not as we might wish it to be. “Here” of course, being on the edge of a cliff and having taken a leap with no parachute.

The sick joke that MPs will have only a few hours to debate a 2,000 page document makes a mockery of claims of restoring parliamentary sovereignty that was never lost in the first place. This is another deliberate ploy from the autocratic charlatan of a Prime Minister who rejected any extension to the Transition period, despite the unprecedented global COVID pandemic.

We know that the deal will be damaging for the UK. It fails to meet any of Keir Starmer’s six tests. It will harm the life chances of the entire population and impoverish millions. We will be out of the Single Market. We will be out of the Customs Union. We will have nothing but a thin gruel deal that was absolutely not what anyone voted for.

Starmer’s decision to support this deal, no matter what lame excuses, riders or qualifiers are given, the Tories and the right-wing press will make sure that Labour share the ownership of the deal.

It is self-destructive in the extreme for Labour to give Boris Johnson an undeserved triumph of a huge majority for his deal. It means an endorsement of his negotiating strategy, including his threat to break international law. It will give the Tories totally unearned and unjustified credibility where they have none.

Most importantly, in the longer run, it will mean that Labour ‘owns’ the deal and its damaging consequences. Labour will have voted to remove our rights and freedoms. Labour will have endorsed the theft of our freedom of movement. Labour will have supported barriers to trade where there were none before.

How will they be able to attack the government for its shortcomings, lies and failures as they become ever clearer. Voting for Johnson’s deal will be short sighted tactical stupidity that ignores long stem strategy. It will be a unique example of rats jumping onto a ship that is not just sinking, but is disappearing below the water.

Alistair Campbell has argued that Labour should abstain. It will leave room to attack the government – Labour is meant to be the Opposition, after all. He says Labour should “go back to the promises made for Brexit in 2016. Take them apart one by one. Show how they have failed to meet them. Expose the lies, delusions and deceptions. Explain the damage they have already done and will do in the future.”

I ask all Labour MPs. How can you sign up to an agreement that you know will do immense damage to the British public just as that damage – the lorry queues, the shortages, the price rises, the job losses – are already being revealed in their ghastly technicolour reality? How can you look in the mirror, look at your children and say, “I voted to remove your rights and destroy your futures”? No opposition should bind itself to a catastrophe it did not create. No social democrat could possibly do this.

Robert Williams works in communications

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16 Responses to “Labour must not try to board a sinking ship”

  1. Alf says:

    You just can’t trust Tory-lite Keir. He’s a Blair cultist if ever there was one.

  2. John P Reid says:

    I just accidentally clicked on liberalDemocrat-uncut web page and its lead me to this website

    I can’t be bothered but 2 things
    “ It wasn’t Brexit wot lost the election. It was Jeremy Corbyn” by that definition even though labour accepted brexit in The 2017 election
    It wasn’t the manifesto of Keynsiasm and reversing austerity and should socialism that saw labour get 40% of the vote in 2017 – it was Jeremy corbyn

    You’ve clearly never heard of Saying Sarcastically tHe rEd wAlL

    On the other thread tafia mentions the Tories are still half a percent ahead in the polls despite the Libdem collapse and mid term unpopularity
    There’s no way labour can win with just libdem votes , its not Corbyn fault ,the idea labour lost the red wall due to Corbyn is arose, as we’d have won the votes back and be ahead in the polls now!!!!

    Here’s a link to a libdem membership application I’m sure it’s sooner suit you

  3. A.J. says:

    What an excitable, semi-literate article. Citing Alistair Campbell on anything is akin to relying on the authority – nay, the expertise – of Neil Ferguson on lockdown. Campbell is a horror of the first order.
    But, yes, perhaps Labour should not be throwing itself into this with gusto. The time allocated for debate seems far too brief – to put it mildly. Then, quite frankly, politicians from all parties do not seem like the types you would trust to look after your cat while you were away on holiday, much less decide a country’s future. I looked at the ‘Tory’ MPs being elected in 2019 with great alarm.
    The fact remains, however, that one is enjoying giving a smack in the eye to the likes of Campbell, Blair, Heseltine and Adonis.
    Starmer, like so many before him, may well be about to snag his balls on the barbed wire. Yet who is going to be surprised at the likes of McDonnell and Abbott barking their heads off?
    Anyway, Johnson will win the vote.

  4. A.J. says:

    With reference to the so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats, the ex-Notts miners interviewed by ‘The Guardian’ displayed a shrewd insight. Now, Brexit and (most certainly) Corbyn had their part to play in the last election. But those seats were in danger of slipping towards the ‘Conservative Party’ before the term Brexit was coined and whilst Corbyn was still just a figure of fun on the back-benches. It’s happened in the area where I live. New estates replace farmland and sites of formerly important industry. Mills become office space. Those lovely people we used to know as yuppies begin to appear. Even the village where my ‘Daily Mirror’ reading old mum and stepfather live saw the local Labour chappie disappear – and he probably went back to Harold Wilson’s time. People die, new houses go up, outsiders move in. The old miners’ welfare was knocked down and now they have some kind of Tesco or Co-Op instead. What happens next? Political fragmentation continues. Any impartial reading of Labour history – not wishful thinking, mind – suggests that the Labour Party began its decline as early as 1950/51. Even Attlee was losing his grip by about 1947/8.

  5. A.J. says:

    If I was Starmer – and thank heaven I’m not – I’d be thinking of having ‘constructive talks’ very soon with anyone prepared to listen: Nicola Sturgeon, Ed Davey, Caroline Lucas, even the DUP and Sinn Fein.
    Does anyone sincerely believe that, with the SNP taking long draughts of firewater, Labour can win the next General Election, whenever it comes, with a decent majority? I’d sooner back Arlene Foster taking holy orders.
    Labour – the party we think we know – is probably, almost certainly, finished. It won’t matter what any Labour leader says or does, the Party itself is hopelessly divided. Yet there’s still a big and quite important pro-European element within the electorate. You might call anything coming out of ‘constructive talks’ a ‘Rainbow Alliance’. It might not get anywhere electorally – probably wouldn’t – but Labour – the way it is – is heading only for a glass case in a museum.
    Maybe the SDP came too late. Maybe it came too soon. That’s one side of it. The other is, many find themselves either politically homeless else voting ‘Conservative’ with a heavy heart. Yet Labour insists, year upon year, on taking the smoking gun and putting another bullet into its brain.
    A professor of mine, who happened to be a Liberal, then a Liberal Democrat, and a great scholar of the US, particularly the New Deal, swore that Labour should have renamed itself the Social Democratic Party whilst Gaitskell was leader. Now the Party is saddled with a good deal of baggage it doesn’t need – and it isn’t only the right-leaning press that does the damage, it’s Jones and his chums in ‘The Guardian’ – and what was it Orwell said about bluebottles round a dead cat? That’s the fringe element, whether it’s militant unions or fools like BLM and their student clique.
    Now, Kenneth Morgan – together with Henry Pelling, one of the great Labour historians – talks about votes piling up in industrial seats by about 1950. Now we see the same thing happening in metropolitan areas (often pro-European, pro-EU), and understand that elections are not won on that basis. Some recent polling suggested that, in the so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats, only 7 per cent of former Labour voters who voted ‘Tory’ in 2019 were thinking of switching back. 7 per cent!
    Frankly, the Labour Party was bad enough even when I joined. I still remember the look on the agent’s face when I approached him at a meeting. It was as though I’d just suggested selling heroin to his underage daughter. And it took several months before they took my three quid off me (or whatever it was for the unemployed in 1983/4). But at least there was no fearsome left/right splitting. The atmosphere was slightly corrupt but mostly affable – and no-one was much interested in ‘Europe’ unless they fancied a holiday in Spain.
    Now… Starmer, grit your teeth and deal with the Jew-haters and the remaining fellow-travellers – else get on that phone to the Tartan Terror and hope she’s in a listening mood.

  6. Ann Onnimus says:

    “It wasn’t Brexit wot lost the election. It was Jeremy Corbyn.”

    Except that’s completely untrue. A poll (a proper poll, not some unweighted website survey) of people who voted Labour in 2017 but not in 2019, carried out on election day 2019, asked them their main reason for switching. The biggest reason by far was “To get Brexit done” with 34%. A distant second was “To stop Brexit” with 18%. “Jeremy Corbyn” was sixth, with just 5%.

  7. A.J. says:

    Patrick O’Flynn in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ predicts that the ongoing arguments over Europe/the EU will tear Labour apart. Maybe it will. But the arguments – or disagreements, anyway – go back to the end of the Second World War when – understandably – politicians of all colours and shades were attempting to find a better solution to their problems than deploying bombs and bullets across frontiers: 1870, 1914, 1939/40. But Labour then – and much later, into Harold Wilson’s time – were very, very divided; and still rather keen on the British Empire (especially Herbert Morrison). Labour has to ‘own’ – to use that horrible journalistic phrase – its own history. Doesn’t matter so much for the so-called ‘Tories’. They’re the ‘nasty party’ anyway and highly successful they’ve been since Disraeli and Salisbury, bar a few blips.
    Alf might be intrigued to know that the Tories have been ‘Labour-lite’ since around 1945, other than – arguably – during Margaret Thatcher’s time.
    The media are taking too dim a view of the Brexit deal only five minutes after it was signed off by the European bureaucrats: the UK is now – or should be – in a position to bargain from strength and will be able, within the next decade, to piss on Brussels and Strasbourg from a great height.
    Good luck to Scotland under the SNP. They’ll need it.

  8. A.J. says:

    So, resignations. Scarcely household names, though. Even ‘The Independent’ noted the irony of the way Starmer and Corbyn voted. Some might suspect that Corbyn was his usual awkward self for reasons other than principle. I doubt very much, though, if the process is over and done with.

  9. John P Reid says:

    When David Cameron won he paid tribute to labour being in power The country was much more at peace with its self than it was when labour came in,
    In Zhou biography Blair once said , the Tories have a ruthless desire for success to win at all cost and they don’t care if it ruins the country to do it ,aslong as they win

    But their desire to win is to stop a extremist Labour Party mucking Up The Country, so The Tories feel they must win and if things happen when they win. Like destroying the country with social division
    The country being at war with itself its ok as the means justifies the end

    But then if labour is so extreme the Tories feel they must win at all costs to prevent labour from taking over
    It’s Labour’s fault being extremists to see the Tories win to stop it from happening.

  10. A.J. says:

    The editor of ‘Labour List’ refers in ‘The Guardian’ to something called ‘European internationalism’. What exactly is that supposed to mean? Then, Starmer is supposed to be fretting about exchange visits and the like. I see.
    When was the last time we heard anything passionate or even logical from anyone in the Labour hierarchy about public sector housing (council houses to you and me)? Doesn’t Polly Tonynbee lead that discussion from time to time? So, does no member of the Shadow Cabinet now take notice? A roof above the working class head was once a number one priority for socialists, not what might or might not be happening to sixth-form cellists or high-fliers who might fancy a term or two at the Sorbonne. Have they all – those forming their clique around Keir Starmer – forgotten Nye Bevan? The man had many faults but he basically knew his onions. It’s the infrastructure that counts: houses, schools, roads, hospitals, street lighting, public parks and other amenities. Forget your preoccupations with Katya Adler-land and get bloody well back to basics.

  11. A.J. says:

    Sienna Rodgers… oh Lord! Ever done a proper job, lovey? She reminds me of those female MPs you read about who joined Labour because Aunt Mildred once held Tony Crosland’s coat whilst he went for a slash. A-Levels, degree, bit of student union piddling about, then bag-carrying before becoming an ‘influential insider on the Left’ or whatever.

    No wonder Labour is in the state it is.

  12. A.J. says:

    I get the impression Ms.Rodgers does not much like Keir Starmer. Does she still consider him to be on the Right of the Party? Hardly an Alfred Edwards or Reg Prentice, though, is he? – in other words not on the Right at all but the cuddly, soft, politically correct Left: just about where Rodgers herself is, I shouldn’t wonder.
    Was Blair really on the Right? Perhaps, but as Peter Hitchens has stated more than once, Blair and his little gang were far more dangerous to these islands than Corbyn, McDonnell and Abbott could ever dream of being. Blair was plausible, the Momentum crowd just too obvious in their stupidity and brutality. Much as I dislike Corbyn, I loathe Blair. Very hard to dislike Starmer, though, if truth be told: ‘An empty taxi drew up in Parliament Square and out stepped the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition’.

  13. Rob Cooke says:

    Damned if he did, damned if he didn’t

    A simple fact – Labour need to win Red Wall (of which there are 3 or 4 types) seats and votes back. They can’t win an election or even be the largest party winning 3 or 4%on Lib Dem votes, they can’t stop the Tories from winning a majority. The election n 2015 proved that.

    I certainly wouldn’t be listening to Ally Campbell’s advice despite him coming from there, apparently.

  14. John P Reid says:

    AJ on Sienna Rogers, lol , exactly

  15. Touchstone says:

    Just to say, I generally enjoy the articles on Uncut, even when I don’t agree with them, but I have long since stopped reading the comments. They are mostly from a handful of people who probably type in green ink.

  16. A.J. says:

    A rat who goes by the name of Blair has announced he might have been quite willing to scrabble aboard this sinking ship – if only Admiral Johnson and Captain Starmer would allow it. Ally Campbell (and the rest of UB40) gaze balefully from a remote desert island as the hulk sails without them.

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